No, it’s not just you: your B2B customers really are starting to look like B2C customers. Expectations are changing and strong customer experience is no longer just a game for the traditional commerce-focused industries. Gartner estimates that by 2025 80 percent of B2B interactions will occur in digital channels and 44 percent of B2B buyers would prefer a seller-free experience for order transactions.
Manufacturers must make note of these fast-emerging trends and pivot accordingly to open up their operations for both B2B and B2C approaches. Some clients will want the traditional, “this is how we’ve always done it route.” But many more will start to gravitate towards something that looks more user-friendly, more digital, more “Amazon.” As The Manufacturer recently noted, “B2B customers are becoming aware of how traditional B2C resources could be helpful for them; more engaging brands, more attractive catalogues and product information that’s easier to access in real time from anywhere in the world, via compelling and quick interfaces.”
As more and more manufacturers explore options to expand their product offerings or services for both B2B and B2C customers, it can quickly get difficult to keep the distinctions clear operationally. We have three founding principles to guide manufacturers as they become managers of both B2B and B2C lines of business: ensure stability with existing B2B clients, open up specific new roles for the B2C approach, and use B2C skills to further uplift B2B.
Ensure stability with your existing B2B clients
First things first: don’t let your existing B2B strategy or client relationships falter as you make more room for B2C. It’s essential that your B2B processes are proven and future proof so that you maintain stable customer relationships with your B2B clients and stable revenue for meeting margins. Better yet, if you can not only maintain but increase B2B revenue streams, you’ll make the pivot to B2C that much more comfortable for the involved decision-makers.
When it comes to B2B purchasing experiences, you have to consider different facets that a typical B2C buyer won’t even bother with: high volume orders, selling to an account not an individual, automated and contractual renewals, and negotiated pricing specific for the B2B marketplace. To seamlessly coordinate these B2B priorities, manufacturers need to be using collaborative SSOT technology that connects marketing with sales with finance with IT, and so on. Additionally, ensuring your B2B customer management tool can also integrate easily with ERP or CRM is critical to eliminate any knowledge gaps and speed up results for your team and customers alike. Salesforce’s Manufacturing Cloud is a CRM foundation built with all these considerations in mind so you can service B2B clients like a pro and still leave room to scale into new strategies.
Open up new departments and roles to support a clearly defined B2C approach
If you’re interested in launching new B2C relationships as a manufacturer, you must be committed to it. This means opening up new departments and personnel positions dedicated to the nuances and unique operational needs of B2C selling and service. Half-hearted attempts to make space for B2C within your existing operational structure will only get you part of the way there—and will likely frustrate your team with swivel chair processes and overburdened workloads.
However, it is not uncommon for manufacturing organizations to fully commit to the B2C vision with a dedicated approach and resources. In 2021, one in five professionals implementing digital commerce initiatives (considered the touchstone of B2C experiences) worked in the manufacturing industry. Taking the dive into B2C processes with wholly new positions and department methodologies may be daunting, but the rewards are great. Bedford Industries, pushed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, embraced B2C commerce strategies in full and now attributes at least 10 percent of its total orders per day to eCommerce transactions.
Use your newfound B2C skills to uplift B2B processes
Finally, after securing existing B2B relationships and paving the way for B2C strategies to succeed, a sure sign of manufacturing maturity and agility is applying some of your B2C approach to enhance B2B. In March 2020, 30 percent of manufacturers generated between 60 and 80 percent of their revenue from eCommerce channels. This may be because 73 percent of today’s B2B buyers are millennials—tech-savvy, remote, and prone to jump on a web search before speaking with a sales rep.
To keep up with this rising trend, many manufacturers are looking into ways they can mimic elements of the B2C shopping experience in their own B2B relationships, including sleek self-service portals, digital storefronts, and efficient order tracking all online. As Salesforce’s developer community explains, “offering a commerce channel, whether B2B or B2C, often improves customer satisfaction and lifetime value. Order frequencies can increase and online access to product information can create more upsell and cross sell opportunities.” These are benefits that are already boosting B2C relationships—why not foster the same success on the B2B side as well?
If you’re considering better ways to grab the available market in both B2B and B2C channels for your manufacturing organization, Simplus can help streamline and optimize the processes that make it work. Reach out to us today!